The holidays bring to mind a picturesque scene where roaring fires warm the slipper covered toes of couples snuggled under blankets, sipping cups of hot chocolate as they watch a gentle snowfall cover the wooded landscape outside. Candles and strands of twinkling lights draped across mantles and windowsills cast an amber glow and crackling logs serve as the ambient soundtrack to lull us to a state of blissful winter serenity. Even on the balmy 80 degree December days here in Miami, we find ourselves searching for that festive embrace of a cozy blanket to surround us with holiday spirit. So today we're sharing our favorite treasured textiles, from coveted wool blankets for those of you spending your holidays in colder climates to exceptional serapes and towels for those of us sunning the winter away in more tropical environments. Weave your loved ones into the storied history of the holidays, filled with threads of love, family, and thankfulness, by gifting one of these treasured textiles.
Let's start in the tropics by exploring a collection of towels, wraps, and sarongs that will have your loved ones forgetting about the lack of season-defining snowfall. On the stunning Hawaiian island of Oʻahu, Native Hawaiian Owner and Designer Tanya Uyehara of Laha'ole Designs, shares a trio of Pīkake towels that will surround you in plush microfiber and an elegant lei pattern featuring a winding garland of strung Arabian jasmine flowers. Pīkake, the Hawaiian name for these fragrant blossoms, is actually the word for 'peacock' but came to refer to the blooms as they were the favorite flower of 19th Princess Ka'iulani, known as the Peacock Princess. The petals are defined against the aubergine, pewter, and blushed pink backgrounds by soft golden outlines, with some strands of flowers remaining unfilled to offer a whispered floral frame while the petals of other strands are painted vibrant white for a luminous trail of floral jewels. The towels are irresistibly soft and unquestionably modern so you can be confident everyone on your list will eagerly surround themselves with these sea-side leis.
Earlier this year we watched in awe as over eleven thousand athletes, representing 33 sports and 206 nations, competed in the Olympic games offering us an opportunity to unify as nations and express our shared pride of homeland and to appreciate the innate human commonality and community that touches the furthest reaches of the Earth. After the pandemic narrowed our personal worlds, confining us to smaller and smaller local communities, the Olympics arrived as a refreshing and welcomed reminder of our global interconnectedness. This emergence from the darkness of isolation to the soul illuminating light of sodality is brilliantly epitomized by Betsy Bickle's The Other Olympics Beach Towel.
Bickle weaves a narrative of un-actualized possibilities and victorious unions by deconstructing the logos of potential host cities who ultimately lost the bid to hold the ceremonies and arranging them into a contemporary abstracted design. These cities with their abandoned plans were left in a position that bares a striking resemblance to the one that we all found ourselves in during the peak of the pandemic: all visions of the future that we had passionately designed were abruptly interrupted and we were left alone in our cities, unable to share our space with others. And these scars of abandoned plans and lost visions remain as the beautiful lines of proposed Olympic logos. Despite this loss, these host cities joined all of us in rallying around our athletically inclined kinfolk as they ventured outside our shrunken worlds and opened us back up to the global community we had missed. Can you think of a more romantic message to gift to your loved ones this holiday? We cannot!
Baron de Coubertin...the father of the modern Olympic Games..famously said The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part (1)
Before we crossed the threshold and reentered the social scene post-pandemic peak, we kindled our love of film by pouring ourselves over thousands of hours of movies, constructing a canon of cinema that was unimaginable prior to 2019. We comforted ourselves with ceaseless reruns of The Office and drooled over the wardrobes in the King and I and the puppies in The Ugly Dachshund. We tangled our minds with The Game and A Trip to the Moon, untangled them with The Bird Cage and Tag, and stood starry eyed, overcome by idolatry, as Michelle Pfeiffer, with crushingly confident command, lit perfume doused table flowers on fire in the center of a Parisian cafe in The French Exit. We even watched recordings of live performances of A Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo and needless to say, we arranged our schedules—and frankly our lives—around an ever deepening love of film. So when we spotted the Blue Widescreen Beach Towel and Aspect Ratio Blanket from A24 Films we were instantly smitten. These stylish cinematic staples widen the aperture of memorabilia and materialize a love of film off the silver screen. These handsome pieces will capture the attention of everyone on your holiday set and offer the perfect backdrop for every festive scene, whether sand-covered or snow-drenched!
Very few things are cozier than wool, but somehow the heart-warmed hands of the Mayan K’iche artisans behind the Guatemalan Momostecos Wool Blanket managed to weave a wool blanket that boasts an unrivaled softness. Sustainable, eco friendly, and entirely one of a kind, each blanket is a masterpiece of traditional craftsmanship and elegant modern luxury that "is completely handmade, from the cutting of the wool to the weaving on the foot pedal loom"(2).
Hand-woven on wooden looms, rows of narrow ash and ivory stripes carry their linearity across the majority of the design; heathered and blurred by the floccose haze of the supple cloud of brushed wool fibers that float atop the surface of the blanket, the stripes are almost indiscernible from afar but the visible softness is evident at any distance. A train of red arrows follow a red stroke through a river of uninterrupted ivory that runs below the stripes and is supported by a rich charcoal bar below. At the hem of the blanket, a delicate band of ivory holds a coastline of whiskery fringe that's rocked by waves of ambient motion. While the pattern is undeniably breathtaking in its simplicity, the labour intensive process behind the creation of each blanket is where we discover the true magic of the textiles.
"During the summer season in Guatemalan highlands, ...artisans begin to hand cut wool to sheep. Bundles of wool are prepared to be handwashed[,] dried by sunlight[, and then] carded by hand using traditional wood combs and later hand spun using the wood spinning wheels. Once the yarns are ready, they are hand dyed with natural plant dyes[,] hang-dried[,] mounted on the traditional foot pedal loom (K’em)[, and handwoven into blankets] by talented Mayan artisans. Then, due to the difficult access (ravines and huge rocks), our wool blankets are carried on the artisan's back...to the local sulfurous hot springs located in the deepest of the mountains for an intensive felting process by using our feet that cleans the blanket of oil, dirt and impurities. Finally, ...artisans...take them back home to be dried by sunlight, hand brushed with a traditional brush made of a plant’s thorns named “Ki’sh” to release loose fibers and they are ready to be shipped to you." (2)
Staying within the mountains, we shift over to the scaling Pyrenees of Andorra. Salvaging wool that would otherwise have been discarded after spring sheering, VITAL follows in the footsteps of those who have inhabited the mountains for centuries by creating woven blankets and wearable pieces from this natural and indispensable material (3).
"Now, with this same natural fibre, VITAL has created the tapaboques (shepherd’s blanket), reproducing the design and texture that the shepherds of the Pyrenees ancestrally wore to protect themselves from the cold and rain. The blanket has been used by shepherds for centuries, in its shape, weight and texture, there is an ancestral tradition. We hope that this new product we offer, made with the wool of our sheep, will make an attractive contribution to this legacy, which we received with such delight; in this same spirit of delight, we pass on this simple, high-quality blanket inspired by the rich pastoral culture of our land and, likewise, of the whole Pyrenees." (3)
We love opportunities to connect with and participate in this storied history. Following in the footsteps of Andorran shepherds, who themselves followed their flocks through the uncertain mountain terrain as they searched for reposeful spaces as they meandered towards the heavens, we wrap ourselves with these checkered, gingham blankets and appreciate the warmth of their gentle protective touch and their spellbindingly elegant design. As someone once wisely shared with us, "art without tradition is a flock without a shepherd" but this masterful blanket, with its centuries of history, holds the power to shepherd and embrace us through even the most challenging circumstances making it an ideal gift for those we hold dear.
We climb a bit higher up the mountains to Nepal where we find our next handmade tapestry. Here, a team of 300 Nepalese artisans expertly and soulfully weave 100% cotton into a broad fabric that forms the Lubu Newari Shawl offered by US Sherpa, the only Sherpa-owned outdoor brand in the US. Utilizing "production methods that go back generations" (4), the "cotton is spun into yarn by hand...[then dyed] with chemical-free colors made from turmeric, tikka, and other plants"(The Pulse).
Inspired by traditional Nepalese style shawls, the base of the shawl is an entrancing onyx black pool that, on one side, holds streams of emerald, amber, carnelian, and moonstone thread that ripple as they flow in parallel down the shawl. On the reverse side, the onyx pool deepens; mossy blades of fragile thread form bands that define narrow paths through the darkness. Mirroring the streams on the other side, coloured threads pad through the dark abyss, leaving eyelet petaled footsteps that float, evenly spaced, through the black channels between the mossy walls. Each scarf is a constellation of wildflowers blooming in the glow of a fertile moon and glistening even through the shadow of their diurnal pasture. There is no need to scale mountains to find the heavenly fingerprints that mark the sky; these Lubu scarves are a galaxy of enlivened design and a prism of nocturnal colour that will light up the lives of those on your holiday gift list.
Moving south but staying at a high elevation, we make our way to Loei Province in Thailand. Loei is "the city of the sea of mountains" resting "in a fertile basin surrounded by mountains whose summits are covered by fog and abundant varied flora" (5). Within the northern region of the province bordering Laos, in the foothills of the mountains, is a small rural village known as Na Nong Bong. For generations, those who called Na Nong Bong home lived a peaceful agrarian lifestyle, harvesting crops against a verdant mountainous backdrop, dappled by misty clouds, that's nothing short of natural poetry. However, the simplicity of life in Na Nong Bong was upended in 2006 when a mining company established a gold excavation facility a mere 500 meters away in the shared valley. Resultantly, dust storms and detonations shook the ground tenderly incubating the crops. Chemicals from the facility leached into the earth, contaminating the village's water supplies with arsenic and cyanide that slowly poisoned the land and the community, that was already suffering from the clouds of smoke and sulfur that had replaced the misty breath that used to gather around the mountains. Villagers suddenly were unable to drink the water they relied on or eat the crops they themselves had worked to grow.
“Dust from the blasts [at the mine] covered the whole town at night and when we looked out the windows, the visibility was terrible. Black matter covered our roofs, and when the first rain began that season, it became like oil." (6) "The effects of mining and the trauma from over a decade of protest has left scars on the community, both tangible and intangible" (7)
But then, Ranong Kongsean and other valiant community members stood up against the mine establishing an activist group Khon Rak Ban Kerd, "People who love their homeland". Advocating for the closure of the mine and the restoration of their homeland, these activists surrounded the mine to stand up for their land and for each other, even in the face of threats, harassment, and physical attacks. Ultimately, the mine was closed and the group was awarded with the National Human Rights Commission award (8). But before they were successful, the members of Khon Rak Ban Kerd, with the help of six American students, founded 'Radical Grandma's , "self organized group of [local] women who sell their handwoven scarves to fundraise for the environmental justice movement in their home village." (7).
Radical Grandma Collective is an international and intergenerational solidarity effort supporting environmental justice activists in Northeast Thailand. We support environmental restoration and advocate for economic security by: • Directing resources to human rights defenders • Amplifying environmental justice movements in Thailand • Providing educational programming Each purchase from Radical Grandma Collective directly funds community organizing for the restoration of the community, the environment, and their human rights. (7)
By gifting one of these handwoven scarves you not only share absolutely exceptional, aesthetic patterns created with traditional weaving techniques handed down through generations, you support the restoration of a defiled homeland and the Radical, inspiring women who lead the movement to preserve their homes.
We continue our celebration of fearless, resilient women by introducing you to Yadaiha, a social enterprise out of Boulder Colorado "that employs, empowers, and supports the refugee women of Gaza by selling their unique and modern Palestinian embroideries" (9). After identifying that "too many Gaza women hide behind ignorance and a fear of failure" despite their awe inspiring talents and unwavering creativity, Yadaiha founders established the project as a way to support Gaza women as they come to understand their worth and the limitlessness of their potentials. While Yadaiha acts as an incubator for and employer of developing artisans, it's most importantly a lens through which women are reminded of their intrinsic exceptionalism.
And the textile pieces the women embroider are equally exceptional. On the Free Palestinian Bird scarf, delicate birds with open wings and curled tail feathers prepare for flight and beautiful encounters in a landscape of geometric mountains and blossoming flowers, serving "as a symbol of spirituality and freedom, to awaken your curiosity and open your hearts and minds t